Is Married Life Making You Fat?
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, J.D., Founder
I came across this hilarious TikTok of a man devouring a plate of fried, fatty food that a woman cooked for him. He quickly goes from saying that he doesn’t want to be in a relationship to saying that he wants to marry the woman who made him such delicious food. It made me laugh out loud.
But honestly, all I could think of when I first watched this video was that there was nothing green on his plate!
In regards to “gender norms,” men may seek female partners who can cook. And by cook this usually means cooking “comfort foods” such as fried chicken and macaroni and cheese.
Interestingly, I came across a study from just a few years ago that found evidence suggesting that marriage makes men fatter. The research included heterosexual couples in the United States, and the results revealed that married men had a higher body mass index (BMI) compared to men who were not married. Furthermore, the findings also showed that men gained weight in the early years after their wives birthed children.
“It takes the period just before and after divorce to register a dip in male BMI,” reports Science Daily.
In my opinion, here are some of the “norms” relevant to marriage and having children:
- We don’t have to try anymore because we are “taken”
- It’s expected for a man to gain “sympathy weight” when his female partner gains weight to have his baby
- Women are expected to win the heart of a man through his stomach
“It also supports the theory that marriage leads to more social occasions involving richer foods, or more regular meals for men…” (Science Daily).
The “more regular meals for men” made me think of the movie The Help. Part of the story, which takes place in the early 1960s, involves one heavier set African American maid who teaches one of her white female clients who cannot cook how to perfectly fry chicken and make other fatty, rich foods. Her client’s husband thanks the maid because due to her teachings to his wife he has to let his pants out to accommodate his expanding waistline.
I understand that movies and TikTok are forms of entertainment, but we can’t ignore that some food rituals, especially in the African American community (as we have seen through studies), may be detrimental to health. Combine this with racial disparities in healthcare, and then you really have a grave situation.
I am not blaming good cooks or wives for poor health outcomes in their husbands. At the end of the day, we are all responsible for our individual health. And, of course, I am speaking to gender stereotypes, but I am highlighting a specific issue seen in married heterosexual men.
Let's also not forget the glorification of the "dad bod."
Men are now often praised for their “dad bods.” A big belly is a badge of honor and sign of a good, devoted father. Even if this is a joke, I think this messaging is dangerous. Belly fat is the worst type of fat to have (especially in men). It is associated with low testosterone levels in men. Also called visceral fat, belly fat increases the risk of developing serious health issues including type 2 diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), heart disease and even certain cancers.
Belly fat also increases the risk of developing erectile dysfunction. (I bet I have your attention now!).
Interestingly, marriage may actually be very good for men’s health.
“If marriage protects health, the heart would be a likely beneficiary. Japanese scientists reported that never-married men were three times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than married men,” reports Harvard Health.
“And a report from the Framingham Offspring Study also suggests that marriage is truly heartwarming. Scientists evaluated 3,682 adults over a 10-year period. Even after taking major cardiovascular risk factors such as age, body fat, smoking, blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol into account, married men had a 46% lower rate of death than unmarried men.”
It’s time that we all assess if our spouses and partners are helping us live our healthiest lives and if we are doing the same for them. Make it a joint effort by:
- Meal prepping together (follow a mainly plant-based diet with plenty of fruits and veggies)
- Working out together (take turns doing activities you each enjoy. Maybe you like yoga but your partner enjoys hiking)
- Reminding each other to get regular check-ups
- Keeping the television out of the bedroom and getting good quality sleep (this may also improve sex life)
- Holding each other accountable. (If you smoke, quit. If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation)
Finally, no matter what your relationship status…
Enjoy your healthy life!
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses, and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products, and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.